Faculty of Science

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This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2016 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

Monash University

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.




Associate Professor Siew Yeen Chai and Professor David Spanswick



  • Second semester 2016 (Day)


The major focus of this course relates to "neuronal plasticity" associated with nervous system function in health and disease. Structural and functional changes in nervous system function occur throughout development, adulthood and in disease states associated with neural dysfunction. This course seeks to: focus on specific examples of plastic changes in nervous system function; identify and describe mechanisms contributing to neuronal plasticity; develop an understanding of functional physiological and pathophysiological consequences of neuronal plasticity. We will explore neuronal plasticity at the cellular and neural circuit level associated with higher brain function, such as learning and memory, motor control, cognition and consciousness, and how disruption and dysfunction of neural circuit function contributes to disease states including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's disease and traumatic brain injury-induced epilepsy. At the level of the peripheral nervous system and spinal cord, functional plasticity underlying the development of chronic pain states will be described. Throughout the course, an emphasis is placed on the use of state-of-the-art research and diagnostic technologies to investigate neural function, including imaging techniques. Emphasis is on assisted self-directed and project based learning.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Describe the fundamental mechanisms underlying neuronal communication and plasticity via synaptic and non-synaptic routes.
  2. Recognise molecular, cellular and neural circuit components contributing to higher brain function and disease.
  3. Describe the neural responses to brain injury, neurodegeneration, pain and ageing.
  4. Describe how knowledge of the functional operation of neural circuits can be used to devise novel therapeutic approaches targeting neurological disorders.
  5. Critically evaluate scientific information and communicate this in an oral or poster presentation.
  6. Work collaboratively and cohesively as a team.


In-semester assessments - group assignments that will be assessed as a poster presentation: 15% and an oral presentation: 15%
In-semester assessment - mid semester test: 20%
Written theory examination (3 hours): 50%

A pass in the final examination must be obtained to pass the unit.

Workload requirements

Two 1-hour lectures and one 3-hour practical/discussion class per week

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study


PHY2011 plus one of PHY2042 or PHY2032; or BMS1052 plus one of BMS2031, BND2011 or BNS1072; or permission from the unit co-ordinator.